See Joseph Cornell’s book Sharing Nature with Children, Volume 2
Adapted from ‘mystery animal’ in Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature with Children sample activities.
To build on children’s natural curiosity about living things to learn about an individual species special features, this activity that cultivates a sense of mystery and discovery, and develops communication skills through cooperative story telling, descriptive language and drawing.
Did you know?
"As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees."
Valerie Andrews A Passion for this Earth
Quote taken from http://hookedonnature.org/childrennature/quotes
Before the activity
As a practice run, before the site visit activity, tell a mystery animal story to the class, while they draw its features based on the story clues you have given them. See www.sharingnature.com/snwc2activities.html ‘Mystery animal’ activity for a Three Toed Sloth example which you could use or adapt, or use an animal riddle/ poem/ story.
The children will see that the better the description provided by the teller, the more accurate the resulting images.
Tell the class they are going to become story tellers themselves, based on the kind of wildlife they may find on their site visit. Look at images of creatures typical for the habitat you are visiting or researching. For example – if it is a freshwater site – dragonflies, frog, heron, mallard duck, fish, newts, water vole etc. Divide your class in to groups (2 or more) and give each group a secret mission – to research one of these creatures so that they can build a story round its special facts and features without naming it. Each individual within each group can be allocated a part of their mystery animal story to relate to the rest, on the day of their site visit.
For the on-site activity, take enough 4x6 cards and pencils and clipboards for each pupil, a long piece of string and enough mini-clothes pegs for each of the cards, and mats for pupils to sit on.It is also helpful to take laminated pictures of the creatures typical of the site that your class will be describing. A digital camera to record the class images pegged up outside is useful.
Take time to explore the site and observe any wildlife. Then, the class gathers round while one group stands up and relates their mystery animal story to the rest, who draw the animal from the descriptions given. The resulting images are pegged up on the string tied to a convenient natural object eg between two trees. Can they name the creature drawn? Ask them to select the ‘real’ image of the creature from the laminated pictures, and peg this up alongside. This is repeated for all the groups, so that the end result is an array of images to depict the features of the species typical of the habitat.
For younger children, the leader can tell the story and the group can select what creature is being described from the laminated images laid out in front of them.
Have they spotted real life examples of the creatures they have described and drawn, or seen signs of them in their natural habitat?
Using the cards drawn by the pupils on site, spread them out over a table or floor and ask them if they can sort the images according to similarities and differences. What feature will they chose to sort the images on? For example, number of legs, or webbed/ non webbed feet. This information can be translated to Venn diagrams, to illustrate sorting and classifying according to similarities and differences.This would link well with the naming information from ‘My favourite plant’ activity in the Biodiversity topic.
Hooked on Nature gives recommended reading on natural themes for children aged 3-8, 6-14 and adults.See Gerry Cambridge animal photographic images
Use close up images of wildlife for children to guess the animal or describe its features.For older pupils, read examples of poems by Ted Hughes e.g.: